Sunday, October 21, 2012

McLaren MP4-12C vs the world: the ultimate supercar group test

In the new July 2011 issue of CAR Magazine (out on Wednesday 22 June) we've pitched the McLaren MP4-12C against its most important rivals, the Ferrari 458 Italia, the Audi R8 V10, Lamborghini's Gallardo Performante, the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, and the Macca's long-lost cousin, the Mercedes SLS AMG. We've flown in European editor Georg Kacher and made Gavin Green empty his diary, two legends who've driven every landmark supercar over the past 30-odd years. Together with the rest of the CAR road test team they put these six sublime supercars through their paces over two memorable days in Wales. The CAR team also descended upon Rockingham race circuit so Le Mans driver Ben Collins could lap each one against the clock. At the end of three days testing we picked our winner, the very best supercar on sale today. Read the full story in the new July 2011 issue of CAR, but over the coming days we'll publish videos of all the timed laps, along with blogs, outtakes and galleries from 2011's most important supercar test. Check out the timed laps in the hands of ex-Stig Ben Collins at Rockingham in our onboard videos below. We'll add a new supercar each day in the run-up to 22 June, when the new issue of CAR goes on sale.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nissan Juke-R (2012) production model pictures

By Ollie Kew 16 October 2012 15:00 Nissan's crazy Juke-R has finally morphed into a finished production vehicle fit for customers, and this white example is the first one signed off by the company. Buoyed by the relentlessly positive reaction to the original 2011 concept, Nissan will sell you a made-to-order Juke-R for a whopping £400,000 - almost 20 times the cost of a regular top-spec 1.6-litre turbo Juke. A £400k Nissan? Now I've seen everything... Granted, the price is rather hard to swallow, but it's a testament to just how much graft has gone into the Juke-R to morph Nissan's bulbous crossover with the giant-slaying GT-R super-coupe. Motorsport specialists RML handle production, which is 'simply' a case of shortening a GT-R's twin-turbo V6-powered all-wheel-drive powertrain, and squeezing it into a widened Juke bodyshell. The labour-intensive process isn't complete there - the Juke-R is then re-trimmed and fitted with the GT-R's adaptive infotainment display which monitors turbo boost, lap times and G-force. Still, for £400k the Juke-R had better boast impressive numbers! It does. The original concept cars ran an original R35 GT-R engine, good for 485bhp. That Porsche GT3 RS-beating sum was already enough to make the Juke-R stupendously fast (your writer sampled its brutality first-hand riding shotgun in the Juke-R at Millbrook Proving Ground, driven by racing driver Jann Mardenborough). However, for the production versions demanded by well-heeled Middle Eastern customers, Nissan has equipped the Juke-R with the very latest iteration of the GT-R's engine, which has an extra 60bhp: 545bhp overall. Remember that's just 10bhp behind the enormous BMW X6 M and you'll see why the AWD Juke-R can launch to 60mph in 3.0sec and hit 170mph flat out. As you'd expect in respect of that massive price tag, the Juke-R has been finished to a higher standard than the rough-and-ready concepts that RML stamped out in just 22 weeks. The wheelarch extensions and split rear wing remain, but the vents and diffuser are now fashioned from carbon weave, and the Juke-R sports a more defined front bumper. I've found a spare £400,000. Can I buy a properly-finished Nissan Juke-R? You can indeed. Production model number 001 is now finished and ready for delivery, and Nissan reports 002 is also nearly complete. If you want your very own you can contact Nissan to register serious interest, but if that price tag remains a touch too obscene then you might be more inclined towards the Nissan Juke Nismo. This bodykitted Juke is the first European market car to wear the Nismo badge, and gets a 197bhp version of the 1.6-litre turbo four-pot motor. It arrives in 2013 with an estimated price tag over £20,000.

Classified ad of the week: Skyline GT-R

This is genesis. Not just for the GT-R moniker (or anything else hanging from its coattails), but for Nissan as a whole. This little specimen's a tribute to the first Nissan GT-R ever - the car that gave a little island in the north pacific a reputation for building something other than everyman street furniture - thanks to the PGC10, it could do fast and desirable too. It was called Hakosuka by Gran Turismo-Racer fans - hako means box in Japanese, and suka is an abbreviation of sukairain, which means Skyline - and its story started with a racer from Prince, a brand gobbled up by a merger with Nissan-Datsun. Prince made a fairly ordinary saloon car called the Skyline, and decided to build one for racing by crow-baring a straight six in from its bigger saloon, the Gloria. Despite the swap accumulating eight extra understeery inches of chassis ahead of the bulkhead, when it entered the second Japanese Grand prix it managed second through to sixth places against the purpose-built Porsche 904. On the back of its success, and before the Nissan-Datsun merger, Prince released two roadgoing versions in Japan, called the Skyline 2000GT. You could chose an S54A, a 105hp 2.0-litre with a single carburetor, or a triple-carb 125hp S54B with a limited-slip diff and close-ratio five-speed ‘box. On the back of the 2000GT's awesomeness, with newfound confidence from absorbing a brand with racing provenance that confounded even Prince itself, and the company's test track at Murayama, Nissan-Datsun asked the Skyline engineers to build them a hot twin-cam engine. It was based on the company's 2.0-litre six cylinder and was destined for a sporty version of the slightly dull C10 saloon. Come 1969, the first GT-R arrived, beginning its life as a four-door salon for its introduction in March 1971. As well as the big inline six - something synonymous with GT-Rs until the last Skyline-badged model left Japan in 2002 - they were stripped of most of their innards for added lightness. On the track, the first four-doors were utterly lethal - they racked up 33 victories in less than two years, and the coupĂ© like this one, which was introduced in 1971, stretched this to 50 in its first and second year. The competition was largely native, and its then-rivals have long since disappeared into obscurity (Toyota 1600 GT, Isuzu Bellett, Mazda Familia and Mazda Copella), but it managed to show several Porsches clean heels on more than one occasion - an achievement not to be underestimated considering Nissan-Datsun had only been racing for a shade over two years. Porsche had been at it since 1956. As we say, genesis. Admittedly, this one's not a racer, and it's been subject to some troubling pimp work like a carbon boot, carbon bonnet and a 180hp engine that's been re-bored up to 2.8-litres. But it's given us the fizz so we'll forgive it. It's not cheap, though - you'll need to find £39450, and that doesn't include shipping from Japan. But what price for this much AWESOME?

Concept Car of the Week: Pininfarina CNR-PF (1978)

In the 1970s alarm bells were ringing in the energy sector as a series of energy crises and rising fuel prices spiralled. The car industry was forced to produce a new generation of more efficient cars and designers were putting new models through wind tunnels to optimize their aerodynamic performance to reduce aerodynamic drag. Some pushed the limits further than others and none more so than Pininfarina, which designed a car that slipped through the air twice as efficiently than any other. That car was the CNR-PF.
Italy's National Research Council (CNR) commissioned the renowned carrozeria to develop a prototype that would significantly reduce the drag coefficient. Professor Alberto Morelli, design legend Leonardo Fioravanti and Antonello Cogotti, head of the Pininfarina wind tunnel, developed the CNR-PF and sent it for its first trial in 1976. The test was a resounding success. The original mock-up achieved a drag coefficient of just Cd 0.172 – less than half that of conventional cars of the time. The most remarkable thing was that the CNR-PF also had a comfortably sized cabin for four passengers to complement the beautifully smooth shape of the car. The result was most unusual, more reminisccent of a Henry Moore sculpture than a car with its high, arched form, hollow underbody and flush glazing. Not content merely to make a near-perfect aerodynamic concept, Pininfarina designers then set to work transforming it into a running prototype complete with windows, doors, lighting and door mirrors that was built in 1990.

Concept Car of the Week: Saab Aero X

In January 2005 Bryan Nesbitt, then-executive director of GM Europe Design, charged the 15-strong Saab Advanced design team in Gothenburg, Sweden, to create the "ultimate vision of the brand".
The design team – led by head of Advanced Design at Saab, Anthony Lo – worked on a number of sports car proposals, which were considered 'the jet fighters of the road.' The chosen proposal by Alex Daniel was for a large, front-engined sports car that would become one of the most universally acclaimed concept cars of recent times. Of course the Aero X's door arrangement – complete with huge, forward-hinged canopy – is its party trick, but even without the theatrics the car's proportions, surfacing and graphics are exceptional. But it's the encapsulation of Saabness allied to its pure, Scandinavian design language that really shines. Lead interior designer Erik Rokke's cabin reflects the exterior's clean design, its IP shunning conventional dials and buttons in favor of ‘clear zones' like an aircraft-style LED system made using techniques developed from Swedish glass and precision instrument making. The Saab Aero X was unveiled in Geneva on 28 February 2006 where it was greeted with overwhelming positive reactions – Saab had, it seems, created its "ultimate vision for the brand." It marked the pinnacle of a series of outstanding concept cars that started with the 9X but unfortunately the car it directly influenced, the 9-5, came too late to save Saab.